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Kenyan Court Awards Compensation to Victims of 2007 Election Violence

FILE - An opposition protester holds a machete in front of burning shops in Nairobi's Kibera slum, Dec. 30, 2007. Ten people have died in west Kenya as protests against Kibaki's controversial re-election erupted around the nation, the respected local…

A Kenyan court awarded compensation to four women who were sexually abused during the violence that followed the disputed 2007 presidential election. Thursday's judgment marks the first time a Kenyan court has recognized victims of sexual abuse from that period.

The women were awarded $35,000 each for the harm they suffered in the height of Kenya’s worst political violence. Four others who sought compensation received no award.

Physicians for Human Rights is one of the organizations representing the eight petitioners who filed complaints in 2013.

The head of the organization, Naitore Nyamu, said they are happy with the decision.

“It’s been such a long wait for survivors, having to wait for seven years since the case was filed,” Nyamu said. “It’s such a lengthy period of time to wait for justice, but we are delighted that finally there is some sigh of relief because on 10th of December the high court has issued this decision which is by and large served justice for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.”

FILE - Protesters demonstrate with sticks and hammers during post-election disturbances in the Mathare slum of Nairobi, Dec. 30, 2007.
FILE - Protesters demonstrate with sticks and hammers during post-election disturbances in the Mathare slum of Nairobi, Dec. 30, 2007.

More than 1,300 people were killed and at least a quarter-million were displaced from their homes during abuses committed against people in the 2007-08 election violence.

The court found the state responsible for failing to investigate the sexual violence and prosecute the perpetrators.

Nyamu said the organization will follow up on the ruling and make sure the government respects the court's decision.

“We hope this judgment will be implemented and enforced in the coming days,” Nyamu said.

In February 2016, Human Rights Watch released a report about women and girls raped during 2007 election violence.

The rights group spoke to more than 163 women and girls, some of whom were gang-raped by as many as 10 men.

The group noted that the victims struggled with physical and psychological health conditions almost a decade later and were shunned by family, relatives and neighbors.

Agnes Odhiambo, a researcher on women's issues for Human Rights Watch, said the ruling gives the government an opportunity to reach out to other survivors.

“The need is still there and it’s big,” she said. “So I think the government has to come up with a comprehensive plan to make sure they reach out to all survivors. In the past, when the government has given assistance to the victims of post-election violence, they focus a lot on IDPs and completely ignore rape survivors. So this should be an opportunity for the government to right the wrong that it has done all these years and put in place a program to make sure that they reach out to each and every survivor and give them the help they need.”

In all, the group says at least 900 people suffered sexual or gender-based violence in the aftermath of the 2007 election.